Why Can’t I Stick To a Diet?

Why Can’t I Stick To a Diet?

Why Can’t I Stick To a Diet?

Are you wondering “why can’t I stick to a diet?”. If so, you’re not the only one. I have worked with countless clients who feel a sense of despair, helplessness and exhaustion when it comes to dieting. 

So, why exactly are diets so hard to stick to? The narrative around dieting is that when we can’t stick at it, it’s our personal failure…we lack willpower and discipline. It can certainly feel that way when face-diving into a tub of ice cream after vowing not to eat a single scoop for the next month. 

“I must have tried almost every single diet out there and haven’t been able to successfully stick at one or keep the weight off in the long run”

You may be surprised to learn how research shows that usually, it’s a failure of the dieting system itself, rather than the individual on the diet that leads us to be unable to stick at it. And around 75% of those who lose weight on diets put it back on again.

Let’s take a closer look and see if you may resonate with any of these reasons why you’re left asking, “why can’t I stick to a diet?”

7 Reasons why you can’t stick to a diet

1. Diets can make us feel out of control and cause “backlash eating”

Usually, when we embark on a diet, the underlying belief is that the diet’s rules about what, how much and when to eat will help us have control over our eating, and thus help us lose weight. 

Sound familiar?

The reality is usually the opposite. Often there is a honeymoon period on a new diet where we are able to stick to it perfectly for a few days or even weeks. But after a while feelings of deprivation inevitably set in, leading to intense cravings that are hard to resist. We can group this deprivation into 2 categories:

A) Physical/physiological deprivation – this is where your body is registering the fact that it is not receiving enough calories to survive long-term. It sees this as a threat to your survival. It then ramps up your hunger hormone, ghrelin in an attempt to get you to eat more adequately. You’re also likely to experience increased brain space/thoughts being taken up by food in your brain’s attempt to get you to eat.

B) Psychological deprivation – this comes from when we are told by diet rules that we can’t or shouldn’t eat certain types/amounts/groups of foods. As humans, when we are told we can’t do something, we naturally think about it more and feel tempted to do it. For example when someone says “don’t look down”.

The deprivation that comes from dieting is a powerful force. And for good reason. Our biology is set up to ensure our survival and most modern diets do not allow adequate nutrition to ensure long-term survival. Therefore our bodies have our back and we are neurologically, psychologically and hormonally wired to NOT diet. Of course, this can be extremely frustrating if you have a goal of weight loss. However, there is another way to feel in control of food, nourish yourself and maintain a healthy weight. It’s a framework we teach our clients called Intuitive Eating, but more on that is at the end of the article.

binge restrict cycle

2. Diets can make us want to rebel

As adult humans, we have a natural desire to have autonomy over our actions. When we have food rules placed on us, even if we place them on ourselves by embarking on a diet, our brains naturally want to rebel against this. Therefore, many people on diets may break the diet rules as a subconscious form of rebellion. 

3. You can’t stick to a diet because they’re anti-social

Diets are usually anti-social. Take this example…you’re following a low-carb diet and you receive an invite to a dinner party with some friends. You find out that the menu for the evening involves pasta and pudding. You have 3 choices. 

A) you go to the party and try to avoid carb meal components (which let’s face it, is kind of awkward). 

B) you don’t go at all

C) you go to the party and decide to have a “cheat night” off of the diet. But you know from past experience that breaking the diet rules can lead to a spiral so don’t really want to risk this. 

Options A and B can really interfere with our sense of social well-being. Humans are social creatures. Evidence shows that a sense of social well-being and interconnectedness are just as important for our health as diet and nutrition. So if a diet keeps us from our social life…it just isn’t going to be a) good for us holistically or b) sustainable in the long term.

Your way of eating ideally needs to fit in with your life to be sustainable. Not the other way around.

4. Diet often focus is too heavily on weight loss, instead of health and wellbeing

Weight is not as much under our individual control as we are led to believe. We may be able to effectively manipulate weight in the short term but in the long-term genetics have a large role to play. In fact, studies suggest that up to 70% of human body weight is determined by genetics. More on that in this article all about set-point weight. 

The diet industry relies on the false narrative that if we only eat and exercise right, we can make our body look any which way.

The fact is, if we all ate and exercised the same, we would all still have different-sized bodies. 

Weight is not a behaviour, therefore we can’t directly control it. What we CAN directly control are our health behaviours…how much sleep we get, how we move our bodies, our nutrition, our social relationships, and our stress management. THESE are the things we want to focus on.

Body sizes are different

A heavy focus on weight loss can lead to neglecting healthy behaviours if they don’t result in weight loss. Implementing these behaviours may or may not lead to weight loss. But regardless if they do or not, they can improve your health. You see, it’s actually possible to be metabolically healthy across the size spectrum, despite what you may have been told. And if the desire for weight loss is there, that’s ok too.

5. Diets encourage “all or nothing” thinking

There is little flexibility in dieting. We are either “on” or “off” the diet. This is problematic because it encourages an unhelpful thinking style known as “all or nothing” or “black and white” thinking.

For example, you’re on a diet that forbids more than 2 squares of chocolate per day. But one day you can’t resist the urge to eat more than that (because chocolate is yum and you’re human). The diet rules encourage us to think “screw it, I’ve broken the rules now so I may as well have more and start again on Monday”. We may then proceed to bypass our fullness levels, mindlessly eating all the foods the diet forbids whilst we’re not “on” it anymore. Whereas if we weren’t dieting we might be able to approach this in a more balanced way, recognising that a bar of chocolate cannot make or break our health or body shape.

6. Diets don’t consider emotional eating

Diets rely on external rules and pay little attention to our internal worlds. Many people I work with use food to cope and comfort themselves and diets just don’t account for this. 

Picture a stressful day at work and a lecture from your boss. Your thoughts immediately turn to getting home, raiding the fridge and getting a takeaway for dinner to make yourself feel better. Even if you’re meant to be “on a diet”, if food is your only way to self-soothe you’re eventually going to need to break the diet rules so you don’t implode from intolerable discomfort.

If so, this is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, it’s very normal to sometimes turn to food for comfort. But if food is your main or only way of dealing with uncomfortable feelings, this can be harmful to your overall well-being, especially if accompanied by guilt and shame. 

To combat this we need to work through underlying causes of emotional distress and learn strategies and skills to sit with and deal with tough emotions that aren’t just food. 

You can read more on emotional eating in this article.

The framework I use with clients has a whole principle focused on managing emotions and emotional well-being.

7. Diets discourage us from thinking for ourselves

As we follow diet rules about what and how much to eat, we are prevented from thinking for ourselves. You will likely benefit from getting back in touch with your inner wisdom so that you can figure out which foods and portion sizes feel best in YOUR body. 

Diet rules are often too simplistic and don’t teach you to get in tune with your hunger and fullness signals. If a diet plan tells you to eat a certain amount of food at lunch and you still feel hungry afterwards, your body is telling you that you need more food. But, trying to follow the plan you’re likely to try and override what your body is telling you. Another example would be if a diet suggests that you eat 3 meals and don’t snack, yet you feel hungry between meals. 

Your body has a lot of information to give you about the way of eating that suits you best. But most of us need to re-remember how to listen to our bodies, especially if we’ve been dieting for some time. My clients and I work with a specific set of tailored tools to enable them to re-learn the wisdom of their body, enjoy eating and feel more in control around food.

There IS an alternative to dieting

Perhaps you’re fed up with dieting but don’t know what the alternative is. You’ll be pleased to know there IS an alternative…It’s called Intuitive Eating. Intuitive Eating is an evidence-based approach to help improve your relationship with food, have better self-control around food, and break free from the diet mentality. Intuitive eating can help you learn to honour your health by listening and responding to the messages of your body. This helps you to meet your physical and mental needs based on your terms and move away from external diet tools such as the time of day, points systems, calorie tracking, rigid rules or meal plans.

Learn more about Intuitive Eating and how to get started with it through these links:

What is Intuitive Eating?

Intuitive Eating Tips for Those Starting Out

Intuitive Eating 4th Edition (book)

 And download my free 7-steps to food peace and freedom audio guide to get started. 

Do you want to work with a qualified dietitian and Certified Intuitive Eating Counsellor who nurtures a good relationship with food? You can read more about what that looks like here.

Why Am I Not Losing Weight?

Why Am I Not Losing Weight?

So, you’re doing all the right things but still left wondering, “why am I not losing weight?”

Perhaps methods that have previously led to weight loss are not working this time around?
 
This can be very frustrating but please know you are not alone. We have many clients who come to us in this very situation. With the right questions, tests, counselling and advice we can usually get to the bottom of what is leading to your struggles with body weight.
 
This article will delve into the Top 5 reasons you might not be losing weight. We also discuss a revolutionary & unique way to approach your struggles with body weight. Keep reading for the details.
 
But before we dive into the Top 5 list, let’s get one thing straight. Despite what you may have read and learned elsewhere, this Registered Dietitian is here to tell you…

Weight loss is NOT as simple as Calories In < Calories Out

The media often drive the unproven assumption that body size is controllable through self-discipline and is a personal responsibility. This portrayal is not in line with current scientific evidence, which shows that body weight regulation is not entirely under an individual’s control.
 
That’s right. Cutting back your calories and working out more does not automatically mean you will lose weight. In the same way that eating more doesn’t necessarily mean your body fat stores will increase. This is because determinants of body weight are multi-factorial and include (but are not limited to):
 
  • genetics
  • metabolism
  • stress & sleep
  • illness & disease
  • food intake
  • physical activity
  • social & environmental factors
  • age/life-stage

So whilst some of these factors are within our control, many such as genetics, environment, age and illness are not.
 
Weight loss is therefore, certainly not as simple as calories in, calories out. And even if calorie restriction has worked for you in the past, it doesn’t mean it will continue to work. In fact, it’s likely that it won’t continue to work. We explain why this is below.

Top 5 reasons you’re not losing weight

As discussed above, weight is influenced by a myriad of factors. The factors discussed below are those which we see most commonly in our clinic. Please always discuss your individual concerns with your healthcare provider.

1. Restriction is leading your metabolism to slow down

Dieting, fasting and food restriction can trigger your body to conserve energy for another time. Ie) If you do not meet your calorie/energy needs for an extended period, your metabolism will slow down.
This is a survival mechanism that is hard-wired into our physiology. Your body can’t tell if you’re eating less because you want to drop a dress size or because you’re stuck on a desert island. This is a big reason why restrictive eating/diets do not work for weight loss.
 
In fact, there is a body of research suggesting that most people who lose weight through dieting will regain weight within 2-5 years. Some research even suggests that the cyclical process of losing and regaining weight with weight loss attempts leads people to sit at a higher body weight in the long term (likely, partly due to metabolic changes).
 
So…what’s the alternative to restrictive dieting? It is to find your body’s natural set-point weight (its happy place). More on this is below.
 
2. You’re already at or below your set-point weight
Have you heard of Set Point Weight Theory before? It is a scientific theory that explains why losing weight can be a struggle for many.
 
Many parts of our physical and psychological makeup are determined either in part or completely, by our genes. For example, height is mostly determined by genetics. People generally accept that we can’t change our height, it’s just the way we were born.
 
In the long term, the same principle applies to weight. Genetics plays a large part in determining our body weight. Between 40-70% of human body weight is determined by genetics. Research suggests that each human body has a weight range that it is genetically predisposed to maintain. This weight range is called your “set point” and is usually a 3-5kg weight range where your body naturally wants to stay.
 
If our body weight falls below this range, your body sees this as a threat to your survival. And so regulatory mechanisms kick in to help us get back there. For example, if you eat a little more than you need, then typically your body temperature will rise and your metabolism speeds up to burn off the extra energy. If you eat too little, then your metabolic rate slows down to spare the available calories. Also, if the body is not getting enough energy, you will feel more hungry, and/or be more preoccupied with food.
 
You do not have to meet society’s thin ideal to be healthy. And if your body is larger than this ideal, it does not mean you have to restrict and deny your body food. In fact, this is likely doing damage to your physical and mental health, whilst paradoxically leading you to become heavier in the long term. There is a lot of research that shows that people can be metabolically healthy and fall into the “overweight” and “obese” BMI categories. 

 

3. You are struggling with binge eating

If you are feeling out of control around food or experiencing binge episodes please know, you are so not alone. This is such a common experience and usually, it makes a lot of sense in the context of struggles with body weight.
 
Not eating enough (as with dieting/restriction), naturally leads to binge eating. Again, it’s a survival thing. More on that here
Biologically speaking, the body has a set amount of energy that it needs you to take in from food. This will vary day to day. If you don’t get this, then it is going to ramp up your hunger hormones, which drive you to eat. Often this eating is experienced with great emotional intensity and you may eat more than usual to make up for the lack you have been experiencing.
 
Emotional factors can also lead to binge eating. You can read more about emotional eating here

 

4. You’re focusing too hard on the numbers

Are you obsessing too much over a few pounds on the scale?
 
Did you know that weight can fluctuate as much as 5Ib/2-3kg each day just with fluid shifts, poos, wees, hormones and food intake.
 
Focusing too much on the number on the scale can lead to unhealthy behaviours and obsessiveness. This is why I recommend ditching the scales or at least reducing the frequency with which you weigh yourself. Instead you can measure your progress through your energy levels, how you feel and by noticing how your clothes fit.
 

5. There is something going on medically

There are many medical conditions that can affect body weight. Common ones include thyroid diseases, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, Diabetes, Insomnia and Depression. I would recommend discussing any sudden and unexplained weight gain with your GP to rule these out. 
Women eating a meal in restaurant

How to not focus soley on weight loss

How has the persuit of weight loss affected your life thus far? Has it bought you the happiness and health that diet culture promises?

 
For many of our clients, the persuit of weight loss has lead them to become unhappy, disillusioned and less healthy in the long-term.
 
Perhaps it is time to turn away from dieting and any other method of restriction in the pursuit of weight loss.
 
After all, the research proves that restriction leads to further weight gain over time for the majority and can cause a great deal of physical and mental damage along the way.
 
So what’s the alternative?  Intuitive Eating is an evidence-based approach that takes the focus off body weight and instead focuses on nourishment, fulfilling hunger and allowing body weight to settle at it’s set-point. Intuitive eating doesn’t discourage weight loss but rather it takes the heavy focus OFF of weight loss and ON to health. This framework includes the principle of Body Respect, which involves learning to care for your here-and-now body.
 
You can learn more about Intuitive Eating through our article library here and on our about page, here

A big part of Intuitive Eating is relearning how to listen, and appropriately respond to hunger and satiety cues. This is really helpful when trying to stop counting calories. The freebie below has tips and tools that can help you get started with this.

 
Do you want to work with a qualified professional who nurtures a good relationship with food? You can read more about what that looks like here.
Can intuitive eating help with IBS?

Can intuitive eating help with IBS?

Firstly, what is IBS?

Before we answer the question “can intuitive eating help with IBS”, first, let’s get clear on what it is.

IBS stands for Irritable Bowel Syndrome.  Of all the medical diagnoses, this is one that does exactly what it says on the tin.  The bowel is irritated- whether it is gas, pain, bloating, diarrhoea, constipation, or a miserable mix of all of them.  

Your experience of IBS can be on a spectrum.  For some it may be mild bloating and multiple excursions to the toilet after a night out.  For others, however, it can be toileting accidents and crippling pain.  A survey by the American College of Gastroenterology found a majority of IBS patients would give up 10-15 years of their life for an immediate cure for their condition.

The symptoms of IBS confusingly overlap with many other diagnoses.  Most notably for women- endometriosis or ovarian cancer are important to rule out.  Other possible diagnoses are thyroid disease, coeliac disease, and microscopic colitis.  It can feel like such a long road to an IBS diagnosis, but it truly is important to go through all the medical tests offered to rule out more serious diseases.

When to seek medical advice

IBS needs to be diagnosed by your Doctor or physician. 

However, if you have an IBS diagnosis, and you have any of the following symptoms, or a change in your symptoms, it’s important to see a physician right away:

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Family history of colon cancer
  • Rectal bleeding/bloody stools
  • Night time bowel movements
  • Recurring vomiting

These symptoms indicate something much more serious could be going on. 

What are the benefits of Intuitive Eating when having IBS?

Intuitive eating is a framework of feeding yourself from the standpoint of self care.  While intuitive eating messages of “food freedom” and “eat what you love” can feel alienating when you are grappling with IBS, there is absolutely much value for you with Intuitive Eating. In my experience as a Gastro Specialist Dietitian who works with people on their relationship with food, intuitive eating can help with IBS. 

The first thing an intuitive eating-informed approach can teach you is that you are on the same team as your body. If you have had IBS for years, having negative body thoughts is the default, isn’t it?  “Why am I like this?”  “Why does my body hate me?” The truth is, our body is an extension of us.  Intuitive eating invites you to support your body as a form of self-respect. Our bodies don’t have to work perfectly for us to respect them.  

Another helpful principle from intuitive eating is making peace with food.  I know you might feel like food is out to get you, but I promise you, it isn’t.  The ice cream is just ice cream.  The black bean tacos are just black bean tacos.  Intuitive eating-informed work would have us approach foods with curiosity (rather than judgment).  What IF that food does not trigger you as harshly as you assume it would?  Are you avoiding foods because a food list on the internet said you should? Or is it because it makes you discernibly triggered?

Another tenet of Intuitive Eating that people with IBS can find a lot of benefit from is one that, at first glance, seems 100% inaccessible:  reject the diet mentality. 

IBS affects how you feel, but it can also affect how you look, too. 

It’s helpful to be honest with ourselves- am I avoiding foods because I don’t want to look bigger? Or is it truly because I am feeling so ill?  It may truly be the latter, but I have had scores of clients whose motivating factor to work on their IBS is their poor body image. 

Diet culture has shamed them into thinking their body isn’t good enough unless they have that elusive “snatched waist.”  

Your body is a good body.  Intuitive eating work helps you see that.

So can intuitive eating help with IBS?

Yes, absolutely. These are only three, but there are many other valuable things Intuitive Eating can give you– even if you have a chronic condition like IBS.  I invite you to join in the conversation.  Intuitive eating is for you, too.

If you would like to discuss how healing your relationship with food can work alongside gut related conditions, like IBS, then you can get in touch with us on the button below. Sarah is our gastro specialist Dietitian who can support you with these issues, whilst maintaining or building a healthy relationship with food and you body. 

How can a therapist help with eating and body image issues?

How can a therapist help with eating and body image issues?

If you’re wondering “how can a therapist help with eating and body image issues”, you’ve come to the right place.  Lucy, our resident integrative psychotherapist has answered your most common questions on this topic.

What is a therapist?

A “therapist” is usually used as a general term for someone who helps individuals who are experiencing emotional and psychological difficulties to explore their issues and make changes in order to feel better. It is also often used as a short-hand for a psychotherapist or counsellor (essentially the same thing but with a slightly different training). A psychotherapist (or counsellor) specifically recognises the lasting impact of the past and is focused on looking at what has happened to you, rather than what is “wrong” with you and how that might be impacting the present.

Some types of therapists include:

  • A person-centred therapist has humanistic training and holds the view that everyone is an “expert” in their own lives and has the capacity for growth and change. The counsellor provides a safe space for this exploration by offering empathy, congruence and unconditional positive regard.
  • A psychodynamic therapist focuses on how the unconscious and past experiences shape current behaviour. They might help you to talk about childhood relationships with your parents and other significant people and consider the impact of these. A psychodynamic therapist might be more directive and/or interpretive than a person-centred one.
  • A cognitive-behavioural therapist usually focuses more on the present and uses specific practical techniques to identify intrusive negative thoughts and beliefs and seeks to challenge and change these into ones that are more helpful and less harmful.
  • An integrative therapist is one who uses techniques and theories from different modalities to tailor an individual approach for the client.
Some therapists use creative methods (music, movement, art), some bring in ideas from philosophy or neuroscience and some use mindfulness and/or meditation. Whatever their background or training, the aim of any psychotherapist or counsellor is to build a trusting and non-judgemental relationship that helps to develop understanding, acceptance and self-compassion and improve your psychological wellbeing.

What kind of therapist can help with food and body image difficulties?

Any therapist can potentially help with food and body image difficulties but it might be helpful to look for one who specialises in disordered eating, eating disorders and/or intuitive eating. Often these issues will have started in childhood and so a person-centred, psychodynamic or integrative therapist is often the most appropriate and will help you to consider:
  • What were/are your parents’/carers’/siblings’ relationships with food/body like?
  • What messages were you given about food (implicitly and explicitly) growing up? – What messages were you given about your body (implicitly and explicitly) growing up?
  • What societal/ cultural messages were/are there about food/bodies/movement?
  • Which significant events from childhood might have impacted how you felt about food/ your body?
  • How and why might food be a coping mechanism for psychological or emotional issues?
They would then help you to consider the impact of these on your current distress, in order to understand disordered thoughts and behaviours, process and challenge the shame you might feel about these and move to a place of healing through acceptance and self-compassion. This often leads to a more neutral or even positive relationship with your body and a peaceful relationship with food, allowing you to live a fuller and happier life. A cognitive-behavioural therapist focuses more on current beliefs that you have about food/body and explores what evidence there is to support these and offers alternative perspectives. This is useful too and an integrative therapist will often lean on these techniques combined with an exploration of the past. This is often the most effective approach.

Can a psychotherapist diagnose an eating disorder?

A therapist cannot diagnose a mental health issue: this is done by a psychiatrist (either after a referral from your GP or privately). You can talk to a therapist about any diagnosis and this is often helpful so that they can consider whether they feel their approach is appropriate, how best to work with you and to help you understand them better. You do not have to have a mental health diagnosis to work with a therapist.

Will a psychotherapist talk about medication?

You can talk to a therapist about medication (and a therapist might ask if you are taking any) but it is not for a therapist to tell you whether you should be on medication for your mental health. Again, this is something to discuss with your GP and/or a psychiatrist. A psychiatrist is a doctor who specialises in mental health. A therapist cannot prescribe as they are not a doctor and should not direct you in any way about medication.

Will a psychotherapist help with dietary advice?

A therapist will focus on your relationship with food rather than on what you eat. A dietitian or nutritional therapist has expert knowledge about nutrition and should be sought for advice on this. You can talk to a therapist about food but a therapist should not give you a meal plan or advise you on what to eat. It can be helpful to see both a dietitian and a psychotherapist/counsellor when healing from eating and body issues.

How long does it take to work with a therapist?

This depends on you and on the type of therapist. Cognitive-behavioural therapy is usually short-term (often six to ten weeks). Other types of therapy are usually longer-term. Issues with food and body are usually enduring, originating in childhood, and therefore an extended period of weekly sessions is often required to work through them.

So what next?

If you would like to know whether therapy could be right for you, you can get in touch via our form, and book a free discovery call with our psychotherapist Lucy ([email protected]). Here you can discuss your challenges and see whether this type of support is right for you. Support can be provided alongside support from your Dietitian, or independently. 
What Is the Difference Between a Dietitian and a Nutritionist?

What Is the Difference Between a Dietitian and a Nutritionist?

Are you confused and wondering “what is the difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist?” You aren’t the only one! I often get asked what the difference is between the two. This article will run through key differences between a dietitian and a nutritionist. It will help give you a better understanding of the type of professional that might be the right fit for you.

Are nutritionists and dietitians the same thing?

The short answer is no. But there can be many similarities. The table below summarises the key differences between a dietitian and a nutritionist.

 

There are key differences in:
  • Professional title
  • Legal regulation
  • Places/types of work
 
I know and collaborate with many brilliant dietitians and nutritionists alike. If you choose to see a nutritionist, it’s best to seek out a registered nutritionist. Anyone can call themselves a nutritionist but registered nutritionists are degree-trained professionals. So they must meet standards and follow evidence-based care protocols.

Should I see a dietitian or a nutritionist to lose weight?

Either should be able to help with concerns about your weight. If you see a nutritionist, make sure they are a registered nutritionist. This will ensure you get safe care.
 
Have you been wondering if it’s possible to ditch diets without gaining weight? I work with clients, teaching them how to stop dieting and start eating normally again. I do this through an Intuitive Eating Framework. Click here if you’re interested in learning more about my services.
 

Which is more suited to my goals?

It depends! If you have an existing medical condition, I would recommend seeing a dietitian. Dietitians are specially trained to provide dietary therapy for conditions like eating disorders, diabetes, heart disease, IBS and many others.
 
Otherwise, either a registered dietitian or registered nutritionist could suit your goals. My advice is to seek out a professional with experience or a special interest in your concern. For example, I have experience working with people with weight concerns and disordered eating. I use a framework called Intuitive Eating, to help clients find their healthy weight. We do this without using restrictive diets. There are dietitians and registered nutritionists who specialise in all types of concerns. These include food allergy & intolerance, sports, irritable bowel syndrome, hormonal health, diabetes and more. Try to find one who suits your needs best.
 
Keep reading to learn more to understand what is the difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist

Is the professional title protected by law?

Registered Dietitians: A key difference between dietitians and nutritionists is that dietitian is a protected title. Registered dietitians are the only nutrition professionals regulated by law. They are governed by an ethical code. This holds them to a high standard of work.
 
Nutritionists: Nutritionist is not a protected title. Anyone can call themselves a nutritionist, even if they have no qualifications. Nutritionists on the UK Voluntary Register of Nutritionists (UKVRN) hold the title of Registered Nutritionist.

What qualifications do dietitians and nutritionists have?

Dietitians: Have a BSc Hons in Dietetics. Or a related science degree with a postgraduate diploma. Or a higher degree in Dietetics. Dietetic courses include biochemistry, physiology, applied sciences and research methods. Dietitians also study social and behavioural sciences and the theories of communication. The Health and Care Professionals Council (HCPC) must approve all courses.
 
Nutritionists: You do not have to have any qualifications call yourself a nutritionist. But, there are qualification standards for registered nutritionists. Only degree courses that have met strict standards are accredited by the Association for Nutrition (AfN). Graduates from these courses have direct entry onto the UKVRN. It is not a legal requirement for a nutritionist to be registered with the UKVRN. A nutritionist who is not registered may not have the knowledge and skills to provide safe care.

Who regulates dietitians and nutritionists to ensure you’re kept safe?

Dietitians: Dietitians get regulated and controlled by the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). Only those registered with this body can call themselves a dietitian. The HCPC is an independent organisation. Its role is to protect the UK public. The HCPC keeps a current register of health professionals who meet its standards. It takes action if registered health professionals fall below those standards. Registered professionals must keep up-to-date through compulsory Continuing Professional Development (CPD).
 
Nutritionists: Registered nutritionists belong to the voluntary self-regulated professional register, UKVRN. The UKVRN is under the Association for Nutrition. Registrants must keep up-to-date through Continuing Professional Development (CPD). Nutritionists do not have to be on the register to have the right to work in the UK. Unregistered nutritionists are not regulated by any external body.

Where do dietitians and nutritionists work?

Dietitians: Dietitians work in many settings including
  • The NHS
  • Private practice
  • Industry and education
  • Research
  • Sport
  • Media and public relations
  • Government and Non-Government Organisations (NGOs)
A key role of a dietitian is to train and educate other health and social care workers. They also advise on diet to avoid the side effects and interactions between medications.
 
Nutritionists: Nutritionists work in non-clinical settings. These include
  • Government
  • The food industry
  • Research
  • Teaching
  • Sports and exercise industries
  • International work in developing countries
  • Media and communications
  • Animal nutrition and NGOs
Some Nutritionists work in the NHS under the supervision of registered dietitians. Nutritionists often work as freelance consultants. They cannot work with hospitalised or other acute patients, without supervision from a registered dietitian.

Summary to answer “what is the difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist”

In summary, there are differences in
  1. Regulation
  2. Qualifications and
  3. Area’s of practice
between dietitians and nutritionists.
 
Only dietitians are able to work individually with hospitalised patients. Nutritionists are not able to provide unsupervised Medical Nutrition Therapy. There are many wonderful dietitians and registered nutritionists alike out there. If you choose to see a nutritionist, it’s best to ensure they are a registered nutritionist. Registered nutritionists are regulated. This increases the likelihood of you receiving safe and evidence-based care. 
 
By now you should understand what is the difference between a dietitian and a nutritionist. Katherine Kimber is a a Registered Dietitian, and Certified Intuitive Eating Counsellor. She has a first-class Undergraduate and Masters’s degree from Kings College London. If you’re looking for a registered dietitian to help with concerns regarding weight, body image and/or disordered eating, Kat offers 1-on-1 and group services in these area’s. Click here to read more about Kat.

Why Am I Always Hungry?

Why Am I Always Hungry?

Why Am I Always Hungry?

Registered Dietitian, Katherine Kimber answers the most common reasons people wonder “why am I always hungry”. 

There it is again… that insatiable hunger, you’ve already had lunch, and it’s your 4th trip to the fridge to seek out food. “Why am I always hungry”, you ask. Huffing to yourself.

Whilst I talk a lot about intuitive eating, honouring your natural signals, and listening to your body, you might be wondering why you’re still back and forth looking for food, when you know you’ve already eaten and you’re not hungry! This article dives into 9 common reasons why you feel hungry all of the time.

In principle, eating should be quite simple. You get hungry, you eat, you move on with your day. But unfortunately, our diet plagued society teaches us that we can’t be trusted to listen or respond to our own bodies. That we try to control and stop feeling hungry. That we need to look to external sources (like the clock, apps, portion sizes, labels, calories, meal plans, points systems) to tell us when to eat, what to eat and how much to eat.

These external sources can teach us to go to our head to make decisions around food, as opposed to connecting with our bodies and what it really needs. And whilst of course we do need to use our mind to make decisions, there is a difference between a a diet driven mindset, and a self-care mindset:

(a) “I can’t possibly be hungry. I just ate breakfast an hour ago. Eugh. Why do I always feel hungry” (diet mindset, results in guilt, not honouring body)

And 

(b) “I’m noting hunger signals despite eating breakfast an hour ago (curious mindset). My body needs more food today. I better eat something (connecting with the body, recognising the need to eat, which is a self-care, compassionate mindset)”

Listening to the diet mindset (a), can create body distrust, and disconnected eating. We are made to feel guilty, for simply nourishing our bodies.

In this article, I am therefore going to outline 9 common reasons why you might feel hungry all the time, and how to connect with your innate wisdom and know what your body needs. 

But are you really eating enough?

Hunger doesn’t just show up in the stomach, so this is really important. Because the only way to satisfy physical hunger is by eating enough food. The single biggest reason why you might be feeling physically hungry all of the time, is simply that you’ve not eaten enough at your last meal, throughout the day, or even yesterday.

Whilst diet culture teaches us that we can’t be trusted around food, and that we can’t control ourselves, I want to remind you that you don’t need to “earn your food”. You don’t need to deprive or withhold yourself. In fact, by doing so, it might be suppressing energy levels, and limiting your ability to pursue things that are important to you. Hunger is normal, healthy and a sign that your body is working. Having regular hunger signals may be a sign that your body is working as it should! When we habitually ignore these signals, they atrophy over time and our ability to listen and respond is compromised.

What does physical hunger look like?

Physical hunger can show up in a number of places, not just the stomach.

For example:

  • Head: achey, light headed, dizzy, distracted, poor concentration
  • Energy levels: tired, sleepy, sluggish, meh
  • Mood: hangry, irritable, cranky, snappy, moody, low
  • Stomach: gurgling, rumbling, emptiness, stomach ache, gnawing, sicky feeling
  • Body: shaky, quivery, low blood sugar, salivating, sicky feeling in throat or chest

Developing awareness of, and sensitivity to, these internal physiological sensations (more technically known as interoceptive awareness) through consistent practice and listening, can help you to develop more trust in your body. Preliminary research also indicates that eating in response to early signs of hunger may help improve long-term blood glucose control.

Are you filling up on rice crackers and celery? (Aka high bulk low calorie foods?)

Foods with a lot of bulk will make you feel full. However, if they are low in calories, they may not be satiating. These foods contribute to feelings of fullness, but have short-lived fullness, because they are low calorie foods. It’s the reason why, for example, you could eat a meal consisting of a big vegetable salad, with a can of diet coke, and truly feel full, but end up hungry again shortly after or feel as if something is missing.

High bulk low calorie foods: Usually fruits and vegetables. For example, a large salad without protein or starch or vegetable soup might leave you feeling physically full but unsatisfied. 

Air foods: Air foods fill up your stomach, but offer little (if any) energy. They are typically foods eaten on diets such as rice cakes, low calorie cereal bars, and sugar free drinks.

Low carb or artificially sweetened foods: These foods tend to replace carbohydrates with sugar alcohols and indigestible fibres. These replacements can make you feel temporarily full. If eaten in excess, they can cause bloating and discomfort. This includes some energy bars, sugar-free jelly, low carb desserts and snacks.

The body generally feels full and satiated on meals that contain a combination of starchy grains, fibre (fruit/vegetables), proteins, fats, calcium and a good dose of flavour, texture and satisfaction!

Are you truly satisfied?

There is one psychological dimension to physical fullness that wellness culture doesn’t often get us to consider, and that is satisfaction. I’m sorry, but celery juice just doesn’t cut the mustard. 

Fullness is the physical sensation of satiety, while satisfaction is the mental sensation of satiety. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (the theory of human motivation” is a model that teaches us that we’re driven by our unmet needs. Whether this be in food, relationships, careers. So if we’re not satisfying our needs, we’re not happy. We therefore seek out food that drives satisfaction. Satisfaction and pleasure are at the core of eating!

I have a little exercise for you. 

Think about the last meal you ate. 

How would you rate this on a scale of 0-10? 10 being the most satisfying meal you’ve ever eaten, and 0 the least?

Now think about this.

If you could boost the satisfaction (forgetting about what you may deem as “good/bad” food) what would you change?

Sometimes we need to add something extra to round off the meal, or change the environment, and generally boost the satisfaction factor of the eating experience. 

For example, eating in a more relaxed environment, adding some cheese to your pasta, or a slice of crusty chewy bread to a heart soup?

But why do I always feel hungry even after eating? 

Do you ever have that feeling of fullness in your stomach, but a desire to eat something sweet?

This is called “taste hunger” and is completely normal. Taste hunger occurs when you have a taste for a specific food that may present itself outside of physical hunger or alongside it.

Basically, taste hunger is when you want to eat food that just sounds good! Like a sweet, after a meal. It’s really normal to have the desire for a little something to round off your meal and provide the “satisfaction factor”. Like sweets, biscuits, ice-cream, fruit, yoghurt, hot chocolate etc. 

Diet culture teaches us that having something sweet is “bad”. This can lead to a negative judgement when we do eat something sweet, which can spiral into the “sod it mentality”. I’ve done it now, I might as well keep going.

So what to do?

Don’t panic and eat the sweet thing.  

I know I am definately not hungry, so why do I still eat?

It could be an emotional response. Below outlines the differences between emotional hunger vs physical hunger. If you know you’re definitely not hungry, you know you have given yourself permission around foods, are satisfied by your food choices, and still want to eat… it might be an emotional hunger. Sometimes what people deem as physical hunger is emotional hunger. And vice versa. The diagram below might help, and you can read more about this in my article on how to navigate emotional eating.

Emotional Versus Physical Hunger

Are you trying to pursue weight loss?

Dieting (which is the pursuit of weight loss), can interfere with our hunger hormones. 

There are two key hormones that help regulate hunger – ghrelin and leptin.

Ghrelin is the hunger hormone, produced by the stomach mostly, but also the small intestine, pancreas and brain. It goes up in response to food deprivation (aka dieting). Ghrelin receptors are located in the brain (a small part called the hypothalamus). The more you ignore hunger, the more ghrelin gets produced to make you eat. The body is pretty clever! It typically switches off when you eat enough food. It’s not a matter of willpower when you cave in, and the diet fails. Biology is trying to make you eat and survive. Your body does not know that you may have a fridge full of food, and a supermarket around the corner. 

However, for chronic dieters, ghrelin may stay elevated after meals as a result of being in a negative energy balance (aka withholding your body from energy). People who have lost weight, therefore, seem to have a higher level of ghrelin circulating around their blood, which can be elevated for a year after dieting! It’s no wonder weight loss maintenance is near impossible, when the body is working so hard to bring your weight back up. 

The only way to make your ghrelin turn off, is to eat enough. This signals to another hormone leptin to say “hey, stop eating”. 

The main message is that if you don’t eat enough, your body will continue to pump ghrelin, and make you feel hungry, until you eat.

Are you getting adequate nights sleep?

As mentioned above, there are two key hormones that help regulate hunger – ghrelin and leptin. When the body is sleep-deprived, the level of ghrelin spikes, while the level of leptin falls, leading to an increase in hunger. If you’re feeling abnormal levels of hunger and a desire to eat, check in with your sleep. Does this need some more attention?

Are you setting unrealistic standards? 

Sometimes I notice my clients are setting an unrealistic standard for how much you “should” eat in a day, that they are consistently not able to. This is a sign that the standard is too high, and too rigid. Have you considered that you may not be allowing yourself enough food.  

Too often, I see something like this… 

  • Greek yoghurt & berries for breakfast
  • Nuts or fruit as snacks
  • Greens & protein for lunch and dinner

Later on results in… out of control eating, coupled with guilt, and more out of control eating, only to start again tomorrow.

Biology will always win. So if you’re cutting out food groups (especially starchy foods which are a great source of fibre) or not allowing snacks, flexible eating, and “fun food” into your life, this may be why you’re constantly feeling hungry, unsatisfied, looking for and thinking about food.

The body is really clever at regulating what it needs. It generally needs food that contains fibre (for example: whole grains, oats, brown rice, pasta, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, potatoes (with skin)), unless you have a specific medical condition where other recommendations have been made.

Medications to be aware of…

Some medication and medical conditions can increase appetite. The most common appetite-inducing medications include antipsychotics, antidepressants, mood stabilisers, corticosteroids, and anti-seizure drugs. If you think your medications are interfering with your appetite, it’s best to speak to your healthcare provider.

So what’s the verdict? Why am I always hungry?

I reiterate – the only way to satisfy physical hunger is by eating enough food. But as you can see, it’s also not that simple! There may be a number of reasons why you’re always feeling hungry, from not eating enough, not satisfying your true desires for fear of not being “healthy” or gaining weight, to looking for comfort, tiredness. Ironically, many of these behaviours are compounded by pursuit of weight loss, restriction and control. When we let go of this pursuit, and honour and connect with our body through intuitive eating, kindness, and compassion, a more trusting, connected and happy relationship with food is possible. 

If you’re not entirely sure what the subtleties of physical hunger feel like for you, and you would like to learn more, you may benefit from diving into my free audio guide and workbook. This includes actionable steps towards finding food peace, and food freedom. 

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