Does the anti-diet trend and intuitive eating lead to weight gain?

In today’s culture, “diet” is often synonymous with restriction and deprivation. Ironically, the word comes from the Latin word ‘dieta’, which simply means everything you eat or drink in a day. But social media influencers have taken the word to a whole new level.

If you scroll through social media, you’ll find #whatieatinaday videos where people tell you what foods you should and shouldn’t eat to look like this. These videos promote unrealistic goals and potentially unhealthy food choices, promoting specific diets that limit or eliminate certain nutrients. These constant reminders also highlight a major problem in our society: the obsession with looking thin. This mindset has become more important than a healthy relationship with food.

This pressure to be thin and look a certain way has also led to an increase in disordered eating and a focus on finding the right diet – any diet at any cost – to be thin. While the push to be thin isn’t new, the growth of social media, especially videos, has made more content readily available than ever before.

In response to these trends, some registered dietitians recommend a different method, the “anti-diet.” The goal is to create a healthy connection and enjoyment of food, rather than focusing on every bite you eat and categorizing food as “good” and “bad.”

Below you will find an explanation of the anti-diet trend and the pros and cons of following this method. Several registered dietitians are also considering using this approach and how to determine if it is right for you.

What is the anti-diet trend?

In general, there is an anti-diet or non-diet trend not supported diets for weight loss or for any non-medical reason with the sole purpose of achieving a smaller body, says Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, a registered dietitian. “The anti-diet trend is a rebellion against the harms of diet culture.”

This form of nutritional advice pushes against the idea of ​​calorie counting, restrictive meal plans, and tracking and measuring every bite you consume. Instead, it promotes overall well-being, defies the morality attached to food (“good” versus “bad”) and counters the preoccupation with food, says Christy Wilson, RDN, a registered dietitian.

“The anti-diet movement may be ‘trending’,” she says. “But for practitioners, this is a lifestyle approach that rejects the shackles of diet culture. Contrary to what some may think, the anti-diet movement is not an anti-health approach; it is a recognition that health and wellness can be achieved in ways that allow flexibility with eating and physical activity.”

The anti-diet trend also takes into account people’s preferences, lifestyles, cultural diets and joyful movements. While it’s true that you’ll occasionally see a registered dietitian say, “I felt like eating a bowl of M&Ms for dinner, and so I did,” this isn’t typically the norm. These statements take the anti-diet approach in the opposite direction. , and that’s not what the concept is about.

An integral part of the anti-diet movement is intuitive eating: an approach that encourages eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you feel full. It also promotes savoring each piece of food as you chew it and sitting at a table or near a window and eating while relaxed rather than in front of your computer. This approach improves psychological health and reduces the risk of disordered eating behavior.

Why is this trend so popular?

In simplistic terms, diets have been canceled. People are tired of restrictive diets, meal plans and diet culture’s obsession with body image and body size, says Wilson. Plus, they find it liberating to hear that you can eat whatever you want and improve your health at the same time.

The truth is that one size does not fit all when it comes to achieving long-term health, and “healthy” is not tied to a specific size or appearance. With this in mind, the anti-diet approach respects body neutrality and the fact that everyone’s body is different.

“Freedom from tracking and food restriction is a relief for people who have been told by medical providers, family, friends, partners and others that there is a single path to weight loss and health,” says Wilson.

The anti-diet approach focuses on lifestyle changes rather than short-term diets that produce short-term (and in some cases dangerous) results. It’s also a weight-neutral approach to health that encourages people to build a healthy relationship with food rather than looking at a number on the scale.

But it takes time to make this approach a reality. For this reason, it is important that people can provide care to registered dietitians and health care providers who are educated and trained in this practice.

Pros and cons of the anti-diet approach


  • Focuses on lifestyle changes that can positively impact long-term health
  • Takes into account the whole person and not just food, weight and body size
  • Takes into account personal preferences around diet, exercise, sleep and stress management, which can promote positive lifestyle changes that are more likely to stick
  • Removes the moral value that many people place on food (“good” versus “bad”)
  • Avoiding restrictive diets allows people to allow any food into their overall diet to minimize feelings of guilt and shame
  • Reduces the likelihood of the restriction/binge cycle associated with limiting or eliminating certain foods


  • Can be misinterpreted as people believing it gives them permission to eat anything and everything they want in any quantity
  • Doesn’t work for everyone; tracking and planning work better for some people

What do experts say?

According to Harris-Pincus, there is nuance to the anti-diet conversation, and it’s much more complicated than just listening to your body and eating what you feel like. For example, people with metabolic obesity have dysregulation of energy metabolism and altered signal transmission between the brain and fat cells. She says that when hunger hormones increase due to this signaling problem, the advice to “listen to your body” doesn’t always work.

Some dietitians have also expressed concerns that this trend could lead to weight gain, which could be bothersome for some. But according to Wilson, weight is not the only predictor of health. “Health is a state of well-being – a collective one, not a body size. If a person abandons highly restrictive or perhaps disordered eating behaviors and begins to adopt an anti-diet approach, weight may initially increase and then stabilize.”

Furthermore, when people change their diet to reach a certain number on a certain scale, the changes are often short-lived, Wilson adds. Temporary diets that result in rapid weight loss can eventually lead to weight cycling, which research shows can be detrimental to health.

Wilson says anti-diet advice aims to help people change their attitudes towards food, establish consistent meal times, improve food variety and encourage eating for nutrition. And pleasure. This is a long process and can lead to weight fluctuations over time.

Is it right for you?

The anti-diet approach aims to build or rebuild a healthy relationship with food, but it’s not for everyone, Harris-Pincus explains. “Every human body is unique and each individual’s needs will vary based on medical history, food preferences, cultural influences, access to food, culinary skills, time constraints and more.”

She recommends consulting with a registered dietitian who is trained to work with anyone who wants to lose weight in a healthy, patient-centered way. You can also use other resources such as MyPlate, a simple and effective model established by the USDA in 2011. The website provides information, helpful tools and recipes to help people of all ages get started with a healthy diet. This model can also be adapted to include cultural and regional foods.

The Mediterranean Diet is another option that has been promoted by health experts for years due to the positive health outcomes of its plant-forward and balanced nutrition approach. For heart health and cardiovascular well-being, the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet is an evidence-based, sodium-controlled diet that includes a variety of foods, like the Mediterranean diet.

If brain health and cognitive well-being are particularly important, the MIND Diet (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) combines the two dietary approaches mentioned above. It is also plant-forward and can be adapted for vegetarian, flexitarian and vegan lifestyles.

The above approaches promote long-term health and include all food groups. They are also flexible and adaptable to accommodate cultural foods and are sustainable for health and well-being. In fact, they fit neatly into the anti-diet approach because they are long-term eating plans that focus more on what to include in your diet for health rather than how to restrict your diet to lose weight.

In short

The anti-diet approach encourages eating for pleasure and health and focuses on what to include in your diet for optimal nutrition rather than what to eliminate or limit to lose weight. It also helps build a healthy relationship with food.

But if building (or rebuilding) your relationship with food and all things anti-diet approach isn’t your thing, other science-based approaches will work too. As an RD, my motto is “you do you”: do what’s right for you, not because you saw it on TikTok.

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