Now, you can find some of them on social media platforms such as TikTok, using the latest dances, trends and science-backed information to reach younger generations. These anti-diet nutritionists want to steer people away from what they call “diet culture,” which they say prioritizes smaller sizes over health and drastic restriction over lifestyle changes.
Where once professionals may have stressed maximizing “good” foods and cutting out the “bad,” this generation of dietitians is preaching maximizing balanced, sustainable changes and ending food-based shame for a life that is healthy in multiple ways, they said.
Being kinder to yourself and enjoying the food you eat is not only more fun – it also works better than the traditional approach to nutrition, the dietitians said.
Grasso, Previte and Williams are registered dietitians and make money through TikTok’s creator fund and paid partnerships on the site.
Diets don’t work
The research agrees that this kind of dieting doesn’t lead to long-term success when it comes to weight goals.
“My best recommendation for patients based on this research is to try to keep their eating pretty similar day to day,” said Emily Feig, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital. “Building a habit of healthy, consistent eating can help patients reduce weight variability and lose weight more consistently, even if it’s at a slow pace.”
Dieting can mess with your mind and body, too.
Feeling guilty about your food choices causes you to make more poor choices, and so it becomes a cyclical pattern, according to Alpert. “There is a time and a place for French fries and pizza and a piece of cake.”
Defining a healthy relationship with food
What works better is developing a healthy relationship with food, experts said, and they are looking to help people redefine what that means.
“There are many definitions of a healthy relationship with food. For me, it’s really just appreciating the food you eat,” Grasso said. That means appreciating the function and nutrients it provides, but also the pleasure and social aspects and “definitely not being afraid to eat dessert or going out to eat,” Grasso said.
Part of appreciating food is removing the morality from food decisions, experts said.
“You’re not a better or worse person if you happen to eat a Snickers bar over an apple,” Williams said. And losing weight does not have to come at the cost of your healthy relationship with food, she added.
“You can lose weight, and it’s not a game of obsession,” Williams said. “You can still enjoy the foods that you like, and you don’t have to cancel plans with friends. You can still live a full life and still be on a weight-loss journey.”
Adding instead of restricting
Whatever your health goals are – around nutrition or weight – going on a mission to cut out food deemed “bad” doesn’t work anyway, dietitians said.
“OK, you lost those 5, 10 pounds. What’s your lifestyle going to look like when you reach that goal? Are you going to continue on this restrictive path, or are you going to implement a more inclusive lifestyle?” Williams asked.
Dietitians such as Williams and Grasso advocate adding to foods instead of restricting them and making small, gradual changes rather than big, dramatic ones.
“They can actually do more harm than good,” Grasso said. “You might lose a lot of weight, but eventually that weight is going to come back, and then you might even gain more because you restricted yourself so much.”
Their content on TikTok does not focus on what to cut out of a diet, which restaurants are blacklisted or how to cut down on calories. Instead, they preach adding nutrients to meals to strive toward balance.
That can look like having pizza for breakfast, then making sure you add lots of vegetables to pasta for lunch. It can mean eating the piece of chocolate you have been eyeing, enjoying it and moving on with your day. Or it can mean ordering Taco Bell in a way that gets you a good balance of carbohydrates, protein, healthy fats and vegetables.
“A lot of people when they are dieting or just trying to have a healthier lifestyle, they like to restrict themselves from food,” Grasso said. “I would like to change that mindset to what you can add to your life.”
“Instead of what I can take away, what can I add to my plate that’s going to nourish my body to the best of my ability?” Williams added.