Get Off Your Diet!

Nutrition information provided here is not a substitute for your individualized diabetes selfmanagement care plan. Any changes should be discussed with your healthcare team.

A New Way to Manage Diabetes

| Apr 1, 2005

Carbohydrate counting and new sugar substitutes, food products and medications have given people with diabetes an array of strategies and resources to help them manage their blood glucose. However, for some people, following a structured diabetes meal plan may not work.

A solution may be found in exploring a nondiet approach to eating and diabetes meal management.

What Is the Non-Diet Approach?

The non-diet approach to eating encourages a person to be internally regulated or physically connected to their feelings of hunger and satiety. Emphasis is placed on learning and responding to hunger and fullness cues, savoring the taste and flavor of foods and trusting that you have a “natural” body weight that is right for you. Internally regulated eaters trust that their body knows how much food it needs and will provide appropriate hunger and fullness signals, instead of depending on portion sizes.

This “trust-centered” style of eating differs from standard nutritional and dietary educational approaches, which tend to focus more on externally regulated eating cues. Externally regulated eating is characterized by eating strategies that may include carbohydrate, fat gram or calorie counting, portion-size control, meal plans, predetermined meal times and categorizing foods into “good” and “bad” or “healthy” and “unhealthy” groups. Dieting is a form of external regulation.

Benefits and Disadvantages of the Non-Diet Approach

An advantage of externally regulated eating is that it can give people a clear idea of what to eat to control blood glucose. It can also make it easier to regulate oral medications and insulin. But for some people, it feels as if too many “shoulds” and “should nots” become linked with eating.

Internally regulated eaters typically let cues of hunger and fullness guide their eating, rather than following a meal plan. They don’t consume a specific amount of food, carbohydrates or calories daily, as they might when following a meal plan. People who follow a non-diet approach often find that they achieve their weight and blood glucose goals. 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 following a non-diet approach may need to regulate their insulin more frequently, based on the amount of food they are hungry for at the time. Internally regulated eating and blood glucose management can take some practice, requiring time, trial and error to learn how to achieve good blood glucose control. But, for some people, the freedom from meal plans and carbohydrate counting is worth it.

If you want to try this approach, you might want to consult with a dietitian who is trained in helping people learn how to sense their body’s cues of hunger and fullness.

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