The Alternative to “Diets”
We tend to not be very patient with weight loss because change is hard. We get excited by
new promises and new eating and exercise routines. Once this excitement wears off we are
faced with a rigid plan that is hard to follow in our “real” world. These plans tend to ignore
our internal signals to eat, mess with our metabolism and make it hard to enjoy our lives.
Rigid eating and exercise plans will become harder to stick to over time. This is because
these plans are not flexible. Our busy lives need a flexible plan. Most people will find them
nearly impossible to follow. Many motivated people start a plan with so much intensity that
they burn-out. Then they will sooner or later rebound to their old lifestyle patterns.
In order to find a plan that you can stick with and creates real change, consider these three
different mind-sets: (hint: the non-diet approach works best!)
American Lifestyle Fad/Extreme Diet
& Exercise Plan
Non-Diet Approach /
ξ Steady weight gain.
ξ Sedentary lifestyle.
ξ Large portions.
ξ High taste (high sugar, fat and salt), highly processed, less nutritious foods.
ξ Erratic eating style (less frequent meals, more frequent snacks).
Fad/Extreme “Diet & Exercise” plans
ξ Rapid weight loss.
ξ Inflexible lifestyle.
ξ Rigid eating plan—often with low taste or low interest foods.
ξ Ignore internal hunger and appetite regulators.
ξ Requires high motivation and excitement.
ξ May result in feelings of guilt when unable to follow the plan closely.
ξ All foods can be included in reasonable portions (for instance, if you often eat 2 cups
of ice cream, try 1 cup rather than none at all).
ξ Moderate increase in activity level.
ξ Changes started that you enjoy and can sustain (for example, if you love chocolate,
work it into your meal plan).
ξ Slow change in body composition, which may be noticed as a change in clothing size.
Less focus on the number on the scale. This can be slow to change and isn’t the only
marker of your progress.
The non-diet approach encourages:
ξ Knowledgeable eating
Varied meal plan with portions adjusted based on hunger signals.
Meal plan includes a variety of foods, and no foods are forbidden. However,
snack foods, sweets and processed foods should be eaten in sensible portions
with meals, not alone as snacks.
Regular meal times based on your schedule, but with no more than 3 to 4 hours
between meals. Eat within 30 minutes of feeling hunger.
Balanced meals that include protein, carbohydrate, fruit and vegetables (refer to
HFFY 509 for more detailed information about the plate method).
ξ Moving your body in enjoyable activities.
ξ Managing your stress and emotions and coming up with non-food ways to deal with
these. Examples include: Getting fresh air, reading, puzzles, etc…
ξ Making lifelong changes instead of temporary fixes.
Let’s get started! Write out at least three goals in each of the areas below with the help of
Competent Eating Goals
Moving Your Body Goals
Stress Management Goals
What is the most important thing you learned from this handout?
What changes will you make in your diet/lifestyle, based on what you learned today?
If you are a UW Health patient and have more questions please contact UW Health at one of
the phone numbers listed below. You can also visit our website at
Nutrition clinics for UW Hospital and Clinics (UWHC) and American Family Children’s
Hospital (AFCH) can be reached at: (608) 890-5500
Nutrition clinics for UW Medical Foundation (UWMF) can be reached at: (608) 287-2770
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor.
This is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because
each person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team
when using this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright 2/2015 University of
Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Clinical Nutrition Services
Department and the Department of Nursing HF#406.