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. They 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.

Find a plan you can stick with and create real change. Think about these three different mind-sets: (hint: the non-diet approach works best!).

  • American lifestyle

  • Fad/Extreme diet & exercise plan

  • Non-diet approach/lifestyle change

American Lifestyle

  • Steady weight gain

  • Sedentary lifestyle

  • Large portions

  • High taste (high sugar, fat and salt), highly processed, less nutritious foods

  • Erratic eating style (less frequent meals, more frequent snacks)

Fad/Extreme “Diet & Exercise” plans

  • Rapid weight loss

  • Inflexible lifestyle

  • Rigid eating plan—often with low taste or low interest foods

  • Ignore internal hunger and appetite regulators

  • Requires high motivation and excitement

  • May result in feelings of guilt when unable to follow the plan closely

Non-Diet Approach

  • All foods can be eaten in healthy portions. For instance, if you often eat 2 cups of ice cream, try 1 cup rather than none.

  • Moderate increase in activity level.

  • Changes started that you enjoy and can sustain. For example, if you love chocolate, work it into your meal plan.

  • Slow change in body composition, like 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:

  1. Informed eating.

    1. Varied meal plan with portion sizes based on hunger signals.

    2. Meal plan that includes lots of types of foods. No foods are forbidden.

    3. Snack foods, sweets and processed foods should be eaten in healthy portions with meals. They should not be eaten as snacks.

    4. Regular meal times based on your schedule. No more than 3 to 4 hours between meals. Eat within 30 minutes of feeling hunger.

    5. Balanced meals that include protein, carbohydrate, fruit and vegetables. For information on the plate method, refer to HFFY#509.

  2. Move your body in activities you enjoy.

  3. Find non-food ways to manage your stress and emotions. Examples include: getting fresh air, reading, puzzles, etc.,

  4. Make lifelong changes instead of temporary fixes.

Let’s get started! 

Write three goals in each of the areas to the right with the help of your nutritionist.

Competent Eating Goals

  1. ____________________________________________________________

  2. ____________________________________________________________

  3. ____________________________________________________________

Moving Your Body Goals

  1. ____________________________________________________________

  2. ____________________________________________________________

  3. ____________________________________________________________

Stress Management Goals

  1. ____________________________________________________________

  2. ____________________________________________________________

  3. ____________________________________________________________


Teach Back

  • 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 www.uwhealth.org/nutrition.

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