When you think you’re not on a diet, but actually you are

How to know if you’re stuck in a diet mentality

Zoe Nicholson (Accredited Practicing Dietitian at Figureate) has written many times about the importance of letting go the notion of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods. You can read here why this kind of thinking is incredibly unhelpful.

As a fitness professional, I hear many people talk about food and their eating, and how they relate it to exercise.  Many people adamantly agree that diets don’t work and are dangerous, swear they’d never go on a diet, yet still approach food with the same mentality as diets.

You may still be subscribing to a diet mentality if you find yourself doing, thinking or saying any of the following…


Using exercise to ‘balance out’ or ‘compensate’ for foods you’ve eaten

“I made up for the brownie I ate by exercising”
“I better go for a run because I ate so much pasta/bread/whatever on the weekend”
“I have to exercise because I’m a big sweet tooth”
“It’s ok to have cake because I went for a ride this morning”

Choosing only certain versions of your favourite foods (despite not having any allergy or intolerance)

Looking for ‘gluten free’ , ’sugar free’ or ‘raw’ recipes as you feel like they are ‘guilt free’
“It’s ok as I used a sugar free recipe”
“It’s a raw, cacao, avocado mousse so it’s healthy dessert”

Only eating dark chocolate even though you love all chocolate

You often skip what you really want, eat something else, but then feel deprived

You really wanted chocolate, but thought you should have an apple instead. You ate the apple, didn’t feel satisfied, so ate a muesli bar. You still thought about the chocolate so you finally ate the chocolate and then felt so full because you ate three snacks instead of just the one you really wanted.

Choosing from a menu according to what you think might be the ‘healthiest’ or ‘lowest calorie’ option

Not choosing what you feel like eating and will enjoy

Feeling food envy when everyone else is enjoying a meal you love and you’re eating the meal you deemed ‘healthiest’

Asking for food ingredients to be removed at restaurants even though you like the taste and you’re not intolerant or allergic

Ordering no dressing as you’re worried about the fat content

Asking for no cheese, no bread, no rice etc even though you enjoy those foods

Feeling like you have to justify certain food choices to yourself or others

“I really deserve this muffin as I studied so hard this morning”, you say to yourself
“I hardly ever eat cake” you say at a birthday party
“I’ve been good all week, so ok I’ll have dessert thanks”

If any of the above feel familiar to you, have a think about whether you’re assigning food ‘good’ and ‘bad’ judgements, and fearing foods you used to enjoy.

You can consult with a dietitian who specialises in the non-diet approach by finding one near you at this link: http://www.healthnotdiets.com/Registry-of-Dietitians.html

You can also read more about Intuitive Eating in these books:
Am I Hungry?® Mindful Eating Program by Michelle May MD
Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole