Get Off Your Diet!

Carbohydrate counting and new sugarsubstitutes, food products and medicationshave given people with diabetes an arrayof strategies and resources to help themmanage their blood glucose. However, forsome people, following a structured diabetesmeal plan may not work.

A solution may be found in exploring a nondietapproach to eating and diabetes mealmanagement.

What Is the Non-Diet Approach?

The non-diet approach to eating encouragesa person to be internally regulated orphysically connected to their feelings ofhunger and satiety. Emphasis is placed onlearning and responding to hunger andfullness cues, savoring the taste and flavor offoods and trusting that you have a “natural”body weight that is right for you. Internallyregulated eaters trust that their body knowshow much food it needs and will provideappropriate hunger and fullness signals,instead of depending on portion sizes.

This “trust-centered” style of eating differsfrom standard nutritional and dietaryeducational approaches, which tendto focus more on externally regulatedeating cues. Externally regulated eating ischaracterized by eating strategies that mayinclude carbohydrate, fat gram or caloriecounting, portion-size control, meal plans,predetermined meal times and categorizingfoods into “good” and “bad” or “healthy”and “unhealthy” groups. Dieting is a form ofexternal regulation.

Benefits and Disadvantages of the Non-Diet Approach

An advantage of externally regulated eatingis that it can give people a clear idea of whatto eat to control blood glucose. It can alsomake it easier to regulate oral medicationsand insulin. But for some people, it feelsas if too many “shoulds” and “should nots”become linked with eating.

Internally regulated eaters typically let cuesof hunger and fullness guide their eating,rather than following a meal plan. Theydon’t consume a specific amount of food,carbohydrates or calories daily, as they mightwhen following a meal plan. People whofollow a non-diet approach often find thatthey achieve their weight and blood glucosegoals. People who are prone to binge eating,which can lead to erratic blood glucose levels,often find this approach helpful, as well.

The Method Takes Some Practice

To manage blood glucose, people followinga non-diet approach may need to regulatetheir insulin more frequently, based on theamount of food they are hungry for at thetime. Internally regulated eating and bloodglucose management can take some practice,requiring time, trial and error to learn how toachieve good blood glucose control. But, forsome people, the freedom from meal plansand carbohydrate counting is worth it.

If you want to try this approach, you mightwant to consult with a dietitian who is trainedin helping people learn how to sense theirbody’s cues of hunger and fullness.

To locate a professional trained in intuitive ortrust-centered eating, search for a dietitian atthe American Dietetic Association’s Web site,, or read more about trustcenteredeating at

For More Information

  • Eating Mindfully by Susan Albers, New Harbinger Publications, Inc., 2003.
  • Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, St. Martin’s Paperbacks, 1995.
  • Staying Off the Diet Roller Coaster by Linda Omichinski, Advance Zone, 2000.
  • Secrets of Feeding a Healthy Family by Ellyn Satter, Kelcy Press, 1999.

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