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Three Non-Diet Approaches to Help With Weight Loss

Sweetness in Practice Contributor - Jan 20, 2016
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When it comes to obesity in the U.S., the numbers are quite staggering. In fact, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) used recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) datasets and reported in The Journal of the American Medical Association that youth and adult obesity rates remained relatively unchanged between 2003 and 2012.1 The results found that nearly 32 percent of children aged 2-19 years old were either overweight or obese and almost 17 percent were obese.1 Among adults, 69 percent were overweight or obese, with nearly 35 percent obese.1

Also troublesome, is a report by CDC investigators that shows average waistlines of adults increased by just over an inch between the years 1999 and 2012.2 The researchers speculate that factors leading to the increase (above what would be expected from changes in BMI) may include sleep deprivation, endocrine disruptors, and certain medications.2 According to 2010 CDC data, men’s waists measured 39.7 inches on average, while women’s waists measured 37.5 inches.3 These numbers are concerning considering a waist circumference of high risk is defined by the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute as 40 inches or more for men and 35 inches or more for women.4 Larger waistlines are associated with increased risk for heart disease, metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.4,5

As healthcare professionals, it’s our job to use the current evidence to provide clients with individualized approaches to help them meet their personal wellness goals and make nutritious food choices that they can sustain long-term.

Here are three non-diet approaches, based on evidence, which can be used with your patients who are concerned about weight.

1. Make Patients Accountable: Recommend Food Tracking and Monitoring Weight
It is important to recommend tools to help patients become more aware of their food choices as well as internal hunger and satiety cues, as this can help them aim for energy balance. Whether you ask your patients to report back to you with completed food logs, have them track their diet and fitness online (i.e., MyFitnessPal, FitBit tracker) or simply keep a notebook, accountability is an important component in helping our patients lead a healthy lifestyle.

2. Seek A More Sustainable Approach
It seems that every week or month, there’s a new weight loss study that suggests low-carb, high-protein, or some other macronutrient manipulation works best for weight loss. The problem is, most weight loss studies are considered short-term (less than a year long) so it’s hard to know if various approaches lead to lasting weight loss. While individuals may lose weight more quickly on a strict fad diet, most dieters may revert back to their traditional eating patterns once the diet ends. That’s why adopting a realistic, sustainable eating plan is most effective in helping our patients make positive, lasting changes to their health.8

3. Uncover What’s Driving the Desire to Eat
Many overweight patients eat to soothe stress, anxiety, loneliness, fatigue or other emotions.9 Others may be overeating because they aren’t getting enough sleep, drink too many liquid calories, eat foods that offer little satiety or any number of environmental factors that drive consumers to eat more.10 Working with our patients to help them identify what’s driving them to overeat can be a helpful strategy in enabling them to eat less, and lose more. Using a hunger scale that helps clients hone in on their physiological hunger is a common tool to implement in your practice.

While some healthcare professionals may avoid recommending frequent weigh-ins due to concerns of frustrating their patients, recent studies suggest that weighing daily can be effective at helping individuals lose weight6 without leading to negative psychological outcomes.7 It will likely also be helpful to recommend weighing or tracking activities that can be sustainable for the long-term.

As a healthcare professional, I often get asked what Registered Dietitians can do to tailor an approach to meet our patients’ needs. I suggest developing individualized approaches that will work with your patients’ lifestyles. Some patients may need more of a structured eating program (e.g., meal plans) while others will want more flexibility over their food choices. Encourage your patients to improve their current diet with simple changes rather than drastically adopting a different eating pattern. Find ways that they can enjoy their favorite foods to help increase adherence.

For example, teach portion control, recommend dining out less, and encourage boosting daily activity. Even recommending a sugar alternative like Truvía® Natural Sweetener in place of sugar in a cup of coffee or tea can add up to significant calories saved. In fact, by using just one packet of Truvía® Natural Sweetener in place of two teaspoons of sugar a patient can save approximately 30 calories per serving. Even a few small daily changes can help patients win at losing.

By working with our patients to implement at least one of these non-diet approaches to weight loss, we may help them not only begin to shed pounds, but also gain a healthier perspective on food in general. We live in a society where food is the main focus, so it is important that we give our patients the necessary tools to take the emphasis off the dinner plate, and instead, think about living well and the power of good nutrition.

To learn more about how Truvía® sweetener can play a useful role in a healthy balanced diet, click here. »


  1. Ogden CL, Carroll MD, Kit BK, Flegal KM. Prevalence of Childhood and Adult Obesity in the United States, 2011-2012. JAMA. 2014;311(8):806-814. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.732.

  2. Ford ES, Maynard LM, Li C. Trends in Mean Waist Circumference and Abdominal Obesity Among US Adults, 1999-2012. JAMA. 2014 Sep 17;312(11):1151-1153. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.8362.

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. FastStats: Body Measurements. Last updated 2 Nov 2012. Accessed on 5 Jan 2016. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/body-measurements....

  4. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Guidelines on Overweight and Obesity: Electronic Textbook. Washington, DC. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-pro/guidelines/current/obesity-guidelines/e_textbook/txgd/4142.htm. Accessed November 23, 2015.

  5. National Institutes of Health. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. What Are the Health Risks of Overweight and Obesity? Last updated 13 July 2012. Accessed 5 Jan 2016. Retrieved from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/top...

  6. Steinberg DM, Bennett GG, Askew S, Tate DF. Weighing every day matters: daily weighing improves weight loss and adoption of weight control behaviors. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2015 Apr;115(4):511-8. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2014.12.011. Epub 2015 Feb 12.

  7. Steinberg DM1, Tate DF2, Bennett GG3, Ennett S4, Samuel-Hodge C5, Ward DS6.Daily self-weighing and adverse psychological outcomes: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Prev Med. 2014 Jan;46(1):24-9. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2013.08.006.

  8. Geliebter A1, Aversa A. Emotional eating in overweight, normal weight, and underweight individuals. Eat Behav. 2003 Jan;3(4):341-7.

  9. Wansink B1 Environmental factors that increase the food intake and consumption volume of unknowing consumers. Annu Rev Nutr. 2004;24:455-79.