Health At Every Size
Intuitive Eating

Why weight loss isn’t the answer

“If only I could meet my weight loss goals then I would finally be able to…” “My GP told me […]

Larger bodied woman in blue bathing suit standing in front of pool smiling

“If only I could meet my weight loss goals then I would finally be able to…”

“My GP told me that healthy weight loss would reduce my risk of…”

“I’ll be happier when I can fit into …”  Are these familiar thoughts for you? Do you immediately know how to fill in the blank?

What if there was a way to solve these problems without focusing on your body or working to lose weight? I should probably start with full disclosure that I didn’t always have the stance I am about to layout for you.

Most of my early years as a dietitian were spent working in weight management working to help people meet their weight loss goals. In fact, my first full-time job was working for the government on a phone coaching program with the goal of answering their questions about how to lose weight and providing weight loss tips.

At the time I was conditioned to believe that it was beneficial to help people achieve weight loss success. That this was what most people needed to achieve good health and happiness. I didn’t realise it at the time, but reflecting back now it’s easy to see how harmful my advice was.

Why there is no such thing as healthy weight loss

First and foremost, I no longer offer weight loss advice because I no longer wish to contribute to the idea that body weight is an indicator of health, wellness, or beauty. This is very stigmatising. Weight stigma is a real issue in modern society, particularly in the healthcare industry.

Weight stigma involves rejecting and/or devaluing someone based on an inability to “comply” with society’s idea of “normal” body weight or shape.

It blames and shames people for something outside of their control and demands they “fix it”.

Weight stigma is often used to extrinsically “motivate” people living in larger bodies to seek “health”. I use quotations here because health doesn’t come from achieving weight loss success, but also because this way of treating people has been shown to have the opposite effect.

A study conducted in America in 2018 (1) found that people who experience weight stigma are more likely to eat higher amounts of food, have decreased self-regulation around food, increased stress hormones (cortisol), and reduced levels of physical activity.

Isn’t this the opposite of what those people report to be trying to achieve?

Why it is possible to have a healthy lifestyle without pursuing weight loss

“But what about health?” A common argument from those looking to justify their stigmatising words or actions. Well, what about health? Did you know it is possible to pursue healthy behaviour change without focusing on body size or shape at all? In fact, the behaviours that contribute to the reduction of body size are more likely to be what is contributing to the health benefits of weight loss than the reduction of body size.

A study conducted in 2012 (2) has shown a relationship between implementation of several healthy behaviour changes and decreased mortality REGARDLESS of body size.

These healthy behaviour changes include:

  • increased intake of fruits and vegetables
  • increased movement of the body
  • reduction of alcohol intake
  • cessation of smoking

Sure, for some people making these changes will result in a change of body shape, but for a lot of people it will not and that is perfectly ok.

I guess now is a good time to add that I am not of the view that everyone should be pursuing health. I understand that for a lot of people pursuing a healthy lifestyle cannot be a priority and that is also ok. However, as a dietitian, my job often involves helping people pursue better health.

My evidence-based gentle nutrition approach

This article aims to outline my role as a dietitian, working with folks pursuing a healthy lifestyle WITHOUT focusing on changing one’s body size or shape.

The way I do this is to use much more gentle approaches to nutrition, such as teaching intuitive eating principles. This approach is weight neutral, incorporates elements of self-compassion and has been shown to help people achieve the same health outcomes as those who are trying to achieve weight loss but with much lower overall risk.

Focusing all your attention on trying to reach weight loss goals can be time-consuming, energy-draining, stigmatising, harmful to your mental health and unnecessary.

It is possible and actually more effective in the longer term to focus your time and energy on working towards the deeper goals you have. Working with a Dietitian who takes a weight-neutral approach to care, can be a relief.

You no longer have to justify why your body doesn’t meet unrealistic ideals or agree to fight tooth and nail to achieve it. You are also less likely to embed disordered eating patterns developed from years of being told what NOT to eat.

What you will get is an empathetic person, willing to listen to what you really want to achieve. You will learn about your own personal values, what your body wants or needs and what feels good for you.

You will experience freedom. Freedom from the trap of being told your body size is the route of all your problems and that if it doesn’t change nothing else will.

You will get gentle, compassionate care.

You can read my story and how becoming a mum helped me quit dieting here.


  1. How and why weight stigma drives the obesity ‘epidemic’ and harms health. Tomiyama et al. BMC Medicine (2018) 16:123
  2. Healthy Lifestyle Habits and Mortality in Overweight and Obese Individuals. Eric M. Matheson, Dana E. King and Charles J. Everett. The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine January 2012, 25 (1) 9-15; DOI:




May 27